The Cyclades: Famous Islands of the Aegean
December 11th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Forming a circle around the sacred island of Delos, the Cyclades islands have a deserved reputation as being some of the most beautiful in the world. Here you’ll find glorious bright sunlight and gleaming blue ocean, but also a variety of settings and experiences, depending on the island you choose for your self-catering villa holiday.

Here is a selection of them.


Cultural Andros

The northernmost of the Cyclades islands is also the closest to Athens, making Andros a popular weekend destination. However, this shouldn’t put you off: Andros has plenty to offer, and plenty of space to explore.

Whereas Batsi is the most developed part, with its beaches and hotels, there are also rocky coastlines and a rich variety of plant life and trees.

There are various secluded villages, connected by paved paths, ancient castle ruins and Neolithic settlements.

The capital of Andors, Chora, is a cultural destination in its own right, with the globally renowned Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in two neighbouring buildings.


Glamorous Mykonos

There’s more than a touch of St Tropez and Ibiza about Mykonos, and this is something the island is well aware of.

Playing to its strengths, Mykonos offers visitors boutique hotels and cafés, a relentless party season and a wide selection of restaurants and bars.

However, Mykonos is also the main dropping off point for visiting the nearby island of Delos, rich in architecture and quietly mesmerising – a world away from the cosmopolitan glamour of Mykonos.

Also, if you choose to stay in a villa in Mykonos out of season, you’ll find it strangely sedate and quiet, so you can enjoy its scenery and beaches largely to yourself.

Volcanic Santorini

The views on Santorini can be stunningly panoramic. It’s perfect for glorious, romantic sunsets, and for looking at the wide, blue infinity of the Aegean from its whitewashed buildings.

It’s a unique destination, which is why it draws so many visitors annually, many of them visiting for the day on cruise ships.

A rough, crescent shape, the island’s crater-like structure was what was left after a huge volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.

Consequently, on its eastern side are its famous landscape of towering cliffs.

Santorini combines this natural ruggedness with a cosmopolitan outlook.

However, while the Island’s elevated west coast is home to many sophisticated bars, restaurants and tavernas, its lower-level east side combines beaches of volcanic black sand with a more traditional Greek island feel.

In other words, you can get the best of both worlds here.


Natural Naxos

The largest and greenest of these islands is Naxos. It’s got high mountains, gorges, valleys and villages perched high overlooking spectacular seascapes.

So, while it has its bars and beaches and more typical tourist attractions, Naxos is also great for some homegrown culture and nature.

The main Naxos Town has an old quarter known as the Kástro, which was originally the seat of the Venetian Duchy in ruled most of the area from 1204. It has steep lanes to wander along and you can explore the nearby countryside dotted with Byzantine churches and the tower mansions that the Venetians themselves once occupied.

There are also two museums in Kástro: a private Venetian Museum and a state-run archaeological museum.

There are two monasteries worth visiting in the countryside of Naxos. There are the ruins of Kalamítsia, run by Jesuits in the late 1600s; and the more intact, Greek Orthodox monastery of Fotodótis.

A notable ancient site on Naxos is the unfinished Temple of Delian Apollo which is an imposing stone portal, known locally as the Portára. You can also visit a skilfully reconstructed temple at Gyroúla.

Naxos provides great walking country, when you explore the vast olive grove uplands southeast of Naxos Town, known as the Trageá. You’ll also discover steep mountain passes leading to characterful villages and tempting tavernas.


Lesser-Known Cycladic Islands

Apart from these big hitters of the Cyclades, there are several lesser-known islands well worth visiting, if only for the day.

These include the tiny island of Iraklia with its scenic bays and dense greenery; Tinos, the religious centre of the area, home to the church of Panayia Meyalóhari; and Kythnos, with its thermal springs.

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